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rhubarb

Another week has passed – finally, time is going quickly. I’m less than a week away from heading back to Costa Rica. Although I’ve been super busy, these two months seemed to have passed very slowly. I think the pace picked up in New York City – since that great night in the Big Apple, time has been on my side. Now it is working against me as I try to take care of book business, prepare my house for Ben, who is going to come and live in my house this summer, and cut the vegetation in my urban jungle back as much as possible, including a rotten tree that has been dropping big limbs over the last year. What seemed like it was taking ages to get here is now around the corner and I’m rushed.

my home

The pear tree is blanketed in blossoms, the tulips are kissing, the young leaves are stretching, and so the great summer growth has begun. Although I’m appreciating springtime in all its beauty, my heart is elsewhere and so I’m thinking more about what is happening with the sticks of ylang ylang and croton that I put in the ground back on Roberto’s land in Cahuita – he’s told me they are coming along slowly. For a gardener, planting in the tropics and planting in the temperate zones of Canada are total opposites, although here in the Hammer, it isn’t anything like the north where I lived for years. But the north is the north – while the temperature is just heating up here, I’m packing clothes for the constant warmth and humidity of the Caribbean coast.

snow

Last week I left Philadelphia and New York City in temperatures hovering around 90 degrees Fahrenheit (that night out in NYC was like steamy mid-July), by the time I got to Petawawa and my friends the Bairs, it was much cooler, and there was still a big pile of snow trying to melt at the end of their driveway. It was warm enough to walk without a jacket in the daytime – but I feel like I’ve spent the last two weeks changing clothes, adjusting layers and looking out at blue skies that mask the chill in the air. Soon I’ll be where hot is just…hot.

fretz

While at the Bair’s beautiful home, I managed to sell a few books to visitors – among them my good friend Fretz, who I worked with for years at Camp Wanapitei on Lake Temagami in the 90s. It seems to get harder and harder to see each other, but she came for one of Al’s great dinners and we caught up – that will have to do for awhile. I’ve lived and worked in a lot of places throughout my life and hang on to my friends. I return to visit them when possible, love to see them when they come and visit me wherever that may be. Once in awhile you either lose touch or give up on friendships that are no longer working, but for the most part, if you have loved people, it is always wonderful to reconnect. Although time may change your situations, it doesn’t need to change the spark that made you friends.

the bairs

That last week of my road trip was made up of visiting friends like that – people I have loved for years who live in eastern parts of Ontario – as I wound my way home to the Hammer. Al and Jean Bair are on the top of the list. I met them in 1995 when they had a home near Monteverde in Costa Rica.

rebecca family

They have a fascinating, dynamic, purely positive large family who I also adore – I was meant to be from a big family but missed my chance in this life. So I grasp onto large families like a street mutt – if they will take me in, I’ll love ‘em forever. And the Bairs are one of my favorite. Al and Jean came into my life right at the time my own parents died and although I don’t think of them as surrogate parents, they have been part of my Costa Rican life and my Canadian life and have dispensed great advice and supported me emotionally. And we constantly laugh and discuss serious politics and philosophy – Al’s favorite line about me is that I have a serious speech impediment – I have to stop talking to breathe once in awhile. I’d say he suffers equally but I’m not sure he’d agree.

the happy bairs

We had four wonderful days together catching up on my travels and their recent trip to southeast Asia. They listened to me moan on about my kabanga blues, and sent me off down the road with renewed vigor, as if I had just spent a week at the spa. Love those folks.

Next stop was in Westport where there is a whole whack of friends who I can’t get enough of. I’ve seriously looked at property there a couple of times in the past ten years but never made the move. If things truly happen for a reason, perhaps I wasn’t meant to be there so that I could make this move to Cahuita – it would be much more difficult if I was in the middle of developing a beautiful piece of property in eastern Ontario.

picking leeks

I went and visited my friend Paul McKay – musician and investigative journalist extraordinaire. He has written several books, most recently on the scandalous marketing of nuclear reactors by the Ontario government at a time when the rest of the world is taking to the alternative technologies – wind and solar – that are available and functioning well. Speaking with people of great knowledge and intelligence like Paul always gives me great hope for the future – his optimism points to the good things going on in the world, advances that you don’t hear about in the media. Paul lives in the bush, where he picked wild leeks (one of my favorite Ontario bush foods – makes the best French Onion Soup) for our dinner, and then we passed the evening doing what we both love – listening to a wide array of fantastic music, dancing, talking.

pilates machine

This particular evening was augmented by his strange pilates machine I spent a long time exercising on (kinda gym-dancing) while I listened to the music – by the time I got off of it, my poor legs, atrophied from close to three weeks driving a car, were cramped from top to bottom, but a little more dancing was the cure. Although I expected to be crying out with cramps in the night, it didn’t happen.

I went into Kingston the next day to see Turid Forsyth’s beautiful artwork in a show put on by the Kingston Field Naturalists. I’ll be speaking at their October meeting (third Thursday in October) about Wolf and Monteverde. Turid lives near Kingston but also in Monteverde – and so I see her in both countries and it is always an interesting time. She is a very talented writer, gardener, artist and photographer. How lucky am I to know these people?

faeries hill

The night was a big fiesta for Carolyn – her 50th – played out at her and Chuck’s home on Faeries Hill. This is a house totally off the grid – a wind turbine was reeling in the stiff breeze, the solar panels were cooking in the sunshine, and the power came in to fuel the rockin’ band of Spencer Evans, the Cowen brothers and Bunny Stewart, a hot sax player from Kingston.

spencer and boys

I’ve talked about these guys before, playing at the Cowen family’s bed and breakfast, The Cove in Westport. Spencer puts on a great show with his incredible array of tunes and sometimes it gets kinda “shticky” for the crowd at the restaurant – but those talented twins, Seamus and Jeff Cowen, just keep the whole thing going as a tight jazz duo behind whatever Spencer decides to do with his piano, clarinet and voice.

seamus

However, for this occasion, they lowered the “shtick” and raised the bar, and along with the smokin’ saxophone, performed a very funky show that kept us dancin’, dancin’, dancin’. This is always a dance floor that is full of spirit and joy and beautiful people.

girls with attitude

b-daySo big happy birthday to Ms Carolyn – take it from your slightly older fifty-ish friend – it only gets better as long as you got the right attitude (and good health and a little bit of luck on the side) – and honey, you got it!

jig the hoopster

And just throwing in a plug for all the hard work Carolyn’s been doing with everybody’s favorite Basenji dog, Zig – he can now jump through her hooped arms – we made him do it a quadrillion times as I tried to capture the movement in the right moment on film…he was exhausted by the end of it (already worn out from a night of partying) but just kept jumping. Love that Zigmeister.

I carried on to Toronto, still heading home – to catch my friends Donna Akrey and Janine Miedzik’s show on the Danforth – “Oh”. Donna lives in Montreal where she teaches art at Concordia so I rarely get to see her anymore. Over the years I’ve gone to many of her art shows which usually involve documenting or collecting junk off the streets and creating installations and bizarre scenarios. Recycling and reusing with a fine arts degree. I’d say a great use of higher education. Oh yah.

tory

The last night of my road trip was spent with my pals Jamie and Tory (along with Jamie’s mom, Joan, and their houseboy, Chris) in Toronto – dining outdoors, throwing toys for Mazie the beagle and enjoying the last night of these three weeks on the road with wonderful friends. It really has been a fantastic time. I put off returning to my house as long as possible – a full day in TO with Sol buying a Blackberry for a friend in Costa Rica was really pushing the limit on avoidance – as I knew that the moment I got in the door the work would begin, and now it has. So enough already, there is a tree to come down, a garden to seriously weed, and a blue sky to enjoy. And only six days left before my heart starts to sing again. Oh yah!

redwinged blackbird

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Here I am lounging on a beautiful screened-in porch, listening to a chorus of insects, overlooking the queen-anne’s laced fields on the outskirts of Westport.  That would be in Leeds County, north of Kingston, Ontario.  This is one of my favorite homes away from home – in no small part due to the great community of people I know here, starting with my friends Chuck and Carolyn, with who I usually stay while in the area. They have built a large off-the-grid home and performance space a few kilometers from town but sleep year round out on their (now) screened in porch. 

Chuck has been a long time proponent of, expert on, and purveyor of alternative technologies – this building puts it all into practice – wind-generation and solar collection maintain a perfectly modern building as well as providing the power for the nights that plugged-in musicians are performing in “the room”. Carolyn is one of those performers as well as a great artist – she also took the photo of me on the back of Walking with Wolf in the snow in a field at their place.

I came down for Music Westport – a daylong free outdoor event that Chuck and others in the community started last year.  Highlighting music from the general Kingston/Perth/Ottawa Valley area, last year was a great success – beautiful day, great attendance, increased business for the little boutique town, and amazing performances in a variety of musical genres. This year’s crazy storms and downpours will hopefully make themselves scarce for the day – the weather report is good but I guess if it does rain, it will send the people into the restaurants and stores and that will be good for business, if bad for music lovers. As always, I’m sure it’ll all work out.

One of the main attractions in this town are the musical twins, the Cowan brothers.  Their family owns The Cove, a bed & breakfast inn, which sits prettily by the lake and has that old Ontario charm.  They have a nice restaurant with many special dinner occasions and a great staff who provide real good service.  Jeff and Seamus, the twins, returned a few years ago from Montreal where they both studied music, and have brought their energy and musical talents home with them and amped up the entertainment in the Cove- now there are monthly blues concerts throughout the winter, featuring the best in Canadian blues performers (via the Blues on the Rideau music series) which fill the house.  The rest of the year features regular nights of music. 

One of these is the trio of the twins with the eccentric Spencer Evans from Kingston.  He is a multi-instrumentalist, and manipulator of tunes – he creates song mixes that leave you speechless (I think last year he put Led Zeppelin and Feelings together), performed with a great amount of spunk and attitude.  But the backbone to all the schtick (a very talented schtick it tis) are the twins – Jeff drumming, Seamus on stand-up bass – they keep the jazz licks rolling while Spencer rolls across the keyboard, off the lyrical map, or through the audience with his clarinet.  I came in last night to catch the show and do some dancing – the place was packed and rocking. I couldn’t help but notice that the little Cove is growing – getting a name for itself with the quality of music being played and the friendly ambience. 

Jeff and Seamus play in other bands as well – I saw them recently in Toronto as Spoon River – along with sitting in with the musicians who grace the stage at the Cove – and I’m always impressed by their talent. Even more so because they not only play music but mix drinks, serve tables and then play more music – they do it all, with big smiles and obvious intelligence and an easy manner with their clientelle.  I would say that just these two alone will create a buzz in Westport that’ll bring folks from far away – and there is no shortage of other talented folks and interesting businesses in this community, as well as the classic beauty of lake-filled scenery. 

I dropped some books off at Stillwater Books in town.  When I walked by a little later, there was Walking with Wolf on display in the window – how cool was that! I tell you, I’m very new at this book peddling business, and I get a thrill each time I sell one, I see someone reading one, or I see it on a shelf somewhere. Now in a window! May I never take this rush for granted. So thanks, my new best friend Steve, for being a fine purveyor of my book….

 

…..I’m now back in Hamilton, the weekend a huge success and the return trip highlighted by picking my sister Maggie up at the airport in Toronto.  She has come for my big 50th birthday bash on Saturday.  I did some business in Toronto as well, trying to get a poster together for my book events coming up, working with the lovely Bruce MacLean on computer stuff. 

 

Music Westport flowed beautifully.  The day was clear, sunny, not too hot or cool, just perfect.  The bands were varied and all entertaining.  The highlight for the audience seemed to be The Abrams Brothers – the hottest bluegrass band in the area, I think they are from Peterborough – three young brothers, their father and a couple of others (not sure if they were family or not, maybe grandpa and cousin – I missed the introductions). 

They travel in a bus, have been all over North America, including Nashville at the Grand Ol Opry, and Israel in the last year.  A huge crowd came out on the lawn behind the Foley House to hear them.  The brothers play stand up bass, fiddle, and guitar – as well as a second fiddle at times.  And sweet harmonies they sing.

 

The day started with the very silly Bald like Dad, amusing the kids, getting the folks on their feet, demanding a little class participation.  A lot of talent disguised as a free-for-all of fun. My pal Cocky showed those young kids how to shake it.

 

 

Carolyn’s eclectic trio, Romeria, were this year’s roving band.  Carolyn, Isidora, and Rob put their accordian, drum, recorders and a variety of stringed instruments together to play gypsy music and old minstrel pieces – they are purveyors of the ancient and exotic. They played a set on a small stage at the Victorian B&B on Church Street and then spent a couple of hours roaming the streets, playing their unique brand of european pop tunes from the 16th century…give or take a hundred years.

 

The Cowan brothers joined in with their old bandmate and friend Eric Lawrance – together they were a band called Bullmoose, a rocking band with great licks based in Montreal.  Eric did a solo performance and the twins played a couple with him.

 

 

 

Then there was Lance Anderson,a well-known player of the B3-Hammond organ.  It took a team to wrestle that baby around.  The show was worth the effort – that rippling down your back organ thing, makes ya shiver. Made me think of Garth Hudson and Richard Bell. The trio also played inside at night, with Teresa Holierhoek singing – apparently just off a tour with Dream Girls – a hot smokey bar room sound. 

A big treat for me was seeing my pals MC Rapper and Stu the Pike reunite with David Bull in their Buddy Holly Live act. I have known these boys for years but they stopped playing this show about five years ago and I had never caught it.  They have a whole historical commentary going on, each taking turns playing their parts, covering the history of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, their short year and a half life as a band before he was lost in an airplane crash. Buddy Holly Live does it all justice and insists that you dance. It ended out the perfect afternoon beside the lake, under the blue sky, soaking up the sun, groovin’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last of our energy went out that night to the sounds of the band Pica de Gallo from Kingston.  Hot hot latin rhythms, a great singer, samba, rumba, salsa, all heavy-handed and piquante.  It was down to the diehards at the end of the night – even my pal Chuck, who was still working sound at the end of the night, after a long day on the boards, was out there dancing.  Gotta love that man, the attitude keeps him going.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great work Chuck, Brin, Norman and all – alot of folks get a free afternoon in the sun with great music because of all that effort of yours. 

 

Besides my book-in-the-window experience there were three other Walking with Wolf moments on the weekend.  One was a short visit with Turid Forsyth, who lives near Westport but also has a home in Monteverde.  I took her a book but couldn’t stay long.  Turid’s stunning art and photographs have graced many books, most recently a book, Tropical Plants of Costa Rica: A guide to the native and exotic flora, with Willow Zuchowski.

 

The second was a small world moment.  At the end of the day of music, we were on the lawn at the Cove, talking with friends, including a woman named Barb. Cocky and I left to change our clothes and later meet up with everyone for dinner at Marty and Sandy’s.  After I left, Sandy was explaining to Barb who we were, saying that I had just come back from Monteverde, having written a book there.  Barb’s jaw dropped – she said, “I was just in Monteverde and I know about this book.  My friend has a copy of it and was telling me about it.”

Turns out that Barb and I had met about a month ago in Santa Elena, on the street, under umbrellas in the pouring rain, so we didn’t remember each other well. She was down with a student group from Toronto, with Jim Reed and his partner Tanya, part-time residents of Monteverde.  JR was on the big hike to Arenal with me last year, the story that makes up the last chapter of Walking with Wolf.  And Barb had met him just last winter in Whistler, B.C. and had ended up substituting for a teacher on the excursion. She came to Sandy’s for dinner and as soon as we started talking, we knew that we had actually met recently.  She has lived in the Westport area yet we have never met here, even though I’ve been there often over many years and know many of the folks that she does. We had to wait to be in a rainstorm in Costa RIca for that event.

Walking with Wolf continues to make community connections even up here in the north country.  It is a side effect of this project that I didn’t anticipate but am enjoying daily.

The third book-related event was the fact that it was Wolf’s 78th birthday on Sunday.  So I called him and we a good chat, catching up on family stuff, hearing of the birthday celebrations, and a little book business.  Happy Birthday my friend, and many many more…it is now time for me to get busy with my part of the preparations for my big 50th birthday party – Mike and Freda Cole are pulling out all the stops for a big celebration at their place – really, all I have to do is invite people, give directions and show up – the Westport gang are coming to provide music – there will be many purveyors of all fine things purveying that day – it is starting to be known as Kaystock! So if you are in the area on August 23, come on over, and bring your dancing shoes! 

November 2017
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